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Capital Continuity

Side Dishes: Farmers' Market Won't Hibernate This Winter

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Winter used to be a lean time for "localvores": When the fall harvest was over, it was back to the grocery store. That's starting to change, though. The City of Rutland is hurriedly turning the old Strand Theater - not to be confused with the one being renovated in Plattsburgh - into an indoor farmers' market that is scheduled to open November 3. It'll be selling meat, breads, salsa and other local fare on Saturdays through the winter.

The Montpelier Farmers' Market is also sticking it out post-pumpkin season. They'll be doing business on the first Saturday of each month, beginning December 1. "A lot of other states with established markets have been doing it year round," relates Market Manager Jessie Schmidt. As far as she knows, the concept just reached Vermont last year, when Norwich started its cold-weather offering. "There's one down in Chelsea as well," she adds.

In addition to storage crops, Schmidt says there will be "great baked goods, prepared foods and meats, winter greens and greenhouse crops" from more than 30 vendors. The cold-weather market will also vibrate with live music and special events, such as a continuation of its popular "shop with a chef" day, when attendees can tag along with a local chef as he or she selects and prepares produce.

One confirmed winter vendor is Pete Johnson of Pete's Greens in Craftsbury. His business was recently awarded a $57,055 USDA Value Added Producer's Grant that Johnson will use to improve the farm's newly constructed 800-square-foot kitchen. There, staffers will prepare goodies such as frozen soup, pesto and sauerkraut for CSA shareholders, farmers' market patrons and visitors to Pete's on-site farm stand. "I don't think we'll do a lot of canning - mostly freezing and making things that are fermented," explains Johnson.

"The grant is going to spring our kitchen three years ahead of where we would have been on our own," he enthuses.

Johnson, who also raises animals, hopes to use the space to make his own sausages. "There are five different departments that come and inspect things like this, and they want to know exactly what we're doing," he relates. "I said, 'Everything

. . . The greatest diversity of food possible." But he can't yet make everything on his Craftsbury land. Johnson is still seeking producers of new artisan foods that he can package with his CSA shares - for example, Vermont vinegar.

Other local recipients of USDA grants include Agri-Mark/Cabot Creamery Co-operative, Inc., which will use the money to increase production of aged, natural-rind cheeses; and Lincoln Peak Vineyards, which plans to make its own wine instead of selling grapes wholesale.

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